When somebody says “what’s your tribe’s mythology?” or “we all came from Africa.” (or its little cousin “we all came from somewhere else”), then they are starting the conversation on a very specific place.
They are saying that -you- are a liar.
This is a conversational framework which, when you scratch the surface, goes like this: “I believe in Science(tm) and Science ™ states that Time ™ runs in one direction and that all Humans ™ must have evolved from a single source and then emerged.”
The implication, of course, (and this is covered in so, so many books and lectures) is that if everyone is an immigrant, then what one immigrant does to another is simply human nature and shit happens and bummer if you got enslaved or decimated because you, as a Human ™, probably had ancestors that did this to someone else.
It’s racist bullshit, sometimes subtle, sometimes not. But it’s also terrible science.
Science is about observation
Create a hypothesis that tests relevant data and then experiment the hell out of it to either prove or disprove the initial conditions. It’s about examining a framework.
The framework of time and origin above are psychological props to justify a narrative of conquest, by placing things in the broadest context possible to make it -fit- the frame.
To put it another way, would it surprise you to find out that animals migrate, when given the chance? And that sometimes… that takes time.
Wow…. what a shocker, right?
So what is relevant?
Let’s lean back and examine the question.
“What are -your- origins?”
That frame can split into three parts. Individual (“Well, I was born to my mother and I’ve staid here all my life”), Familial (“My family came from over the river to this village and they’ve lived here for generations”) or Group (“This is where we come from and what defines who we are”).
In all frames, people discuss things that are observable and relevant.
It is NOT relevant that ‘we all come from Africa’. We all didn’t come from Africa: a different set of people came from there who would barely acknowledge us if we met them.
Yes, we share some similarities
But it’s the differences that matter in this case, as our species uses cultural behavior to pressure epigenetic changes over time to increase our ability to thrive across environments.
Or, you could frame it as it matters where it’s a European or African swallow (geek reference).
To put it in a different light, if I want the recipe for your delicious goulash alfredo, what’s pertinent is that your grandmother was Hungarian and your grandfather was Italian, not that you have a matching allele that can also be found in a Caribbean eel.
What’s significant is what shapes our world and tribal histories explicitly spell that out. They emerged as a People in their ecoregion. They use the language of poetry and simile and metaphor to discuss the ties that make this binding to the land relevant.
That’s not ‘mythology’; that’s great storytelling. Mytho-archeology is probably a better term.
Time in a Bottle
And when they say that they’ve been there “since the beginning of time”, there’s direct relevance there, as well.
Time is an expression of entropy, basically energy running from order to disorder. Once you understand that, you can also understand time as a function of energy input into a system.
In essence, time presents as a circle: each year, this amount of energy goes into the system, which is then reset the next year. Or time can present as periodic events.
When “time began” expresses a large energy input into a system, altering it from initial state into present form.
This can -absolutely- be when humans appeared on the scene.
Not a Superior Frame
The tut-tutting of colonialist scientists when asking for origins is because they don’t want to add in relevance. It wrecks their personal belief that all of the genocide, all of the pain, was somehow natural and needed.
It wrecks their sense of superiority.
And it tries to seal up the vast diverse stories of history behind a child’s view of humanity’s beginnings.